Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Duino Elegies [read by G.G. Allin]


With the screaming hardcore
and the grimyy bathroom stalls
with their endless knots of graffiti
this place does not exactly embody or evoke
the term “Rilkean.” And it definitely
would be difficult to put oneself
in a frame of mind one would refer to
as elegiac while downing shots
of Old Granddad on a tattered stool
while some hobo pukes just a few feet away.
I have two hearts though
the gentle, Renoir-dappled, Chopin-infused one
that traffics in love and beauty
and another one, the anti-heart,
a dark, spiteful organ throbbing
on the right side of my ribcage,
pumping rancid motor oil throughout my body.
Sparks of hatred emanate from it
as it spins and sputters, emitting bursts
of angry backfire, while its more sensitive,
tender twin glows beatifically
and radiates grace and hope and love.
Fuck that. I mean, can one really have
both these sides without being bipolar,
without splitting one’s psyche in half?
Can these schizo freaks function as a band?
Stiv Bators bleeding all over the harpsichord,
Rat Scabies coaxing a haunting melody
from his piccolo? I worry that they’re
incompatible, that these two sides of myself
negate each other, or that the wrong heart
will take charge at the wrong moment,
that I’ll start waltzing in the middle
of the mosh pit, start screaming and swearing
at the opera. Or, worse, that each opposing side
will reduce the other by its very proximity.
It’s an uneasy truce I’ve struck,
lurching from one side of the room to the other
as I try to get my bearings, try to be
both crass and sublime,
elegant and vulgar at the same time

Friday, April 20, 2018

Red River Valley


Clack and scrape of skateboards outside the sports bar
Picnic table on the sidewalk having a beer waiting to see
a movie around the corner by myself. It’s better to be
alone most days, even if it aches, even if at times it seems
unbearable. Japanese animated erotica from the early 70s
Sometimes I take drastic measures to stop that aching
and I nearly always regret it

I’m measuring time by how many weeks my friend’s cat is gone.
She’s left town for the weekend, drove south to see Othello
and Henry V, or IV, one of the Henrys, as I sit at this busy intersection
in the University district, the appallingly bad mural on the side
of the bar depicts people playing sports, a guy headbutting
a soccer ball, shooting a basket, crossing a finish line.
My disinterest in sports creates yet another barrier
between myself and most people I know.
Pretty girl on her phone waiting for her Uber,
guy in a baseball cap screaming at his girlfriend on the phone,
his heart breaking with rage. “I don’t care about last night
I care about what you just fucking texted me.”
A helicopter passes overhead, all day they’ve been
circling downtown, student protesting school shootings,
the 19th anniversary of the Columbine massacre
Parks full of haze, people celebrating 4/20
Cars glide up to the curb, pull away. The pretty girl
gets inside one, is gone. My cells infected with loneliness.
“Tell me how you’re a fucking woman,” the guy screams over and over
into his phone. “Tell me how you’re a fucking woman. Tell me how”

These days I seem to spend so much time fighting the feeling
that everyone is terrible. A gnarled, tiny woman walks
hunched over, struggles with the door of the bar
and I don’t even think to help her with it until she’s inside.
Students walk by with pizzas. I feel out of touch with
pop culture, don’t get any references, feel unintentionally ostracized
because of my unwillingness to fully embrace technology.
Tell people you don’t have a cell phone these days
and they look at you like you’re crazy.
There is no turning-point. The heart is crushed
like a body descended to far and too fast in a bathysphere.
I collapse in on myself. Unseen in the highrises all around me,
people are having sex and dying and playing video games
and doing their homework and eating pizza.
A sign on the table reads No Smoking, No Vaping. Times are changing.
It feels like we’re speeding toward the end,
but doesn’t it feel that way to every generation?
Painted on the side of the building, someone runs for a touchdown.
Leaps across a net. Tees up on the edge of the green.
Another friend sent me a photo of her father
shortly before he died, playing a concert harmonica
in his hospital bed. She says he would play Red River Valley
for the nurses. He was flirting and joking with them
up to the very end, she says. That sweet, sweet man.
If only that cat would come home. I find myself wishing
for that miracle, praying for him to just saunter through
the cat door as if nothing was wrong, yawning and
staring, baffled by the tears of joy.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Water Lily and Ocean Flower


Women wearing shoes the same color as their feet

I only remember being begged for it once,
and while at the time I found it distasteful,
in retrospect it seems kind of exciting.

This is what getting old is like

The way the bridge collapsed beneath us
The corridor so narrow we could hardly squeeze through

Long lonely years later
I’ve learned to embrace it now that it’s too late

I'm through writing about the end of the world,
the collapse of society. Enough.
I just read about this caribou herd that
I SAID ENOUGH

All the books I’ll never get around to reading
but can’t bear to get rid of

Burp of tequila from a tiny crystal boot

The way the bridge collapsed on top of us
The corridor so wide we couldn’t see the walls

I should have read your email more carefully,
should've paid more attention to where the shadows were falling
and at what angles

I wasn’t supposed to tell you about this
How bad I felt

The sun was going down behind the roof
It seemed ok

I wrote it in the wrong order. What a dummy.
I wa supposed to begin with the part about
The can of air freshener sitting on the back of the toilet
with the label that reads Water Lily and Ocean Flower
I was supposed to tell you about how I squeezed the nozzle
in the wrong direction
and sprayed myself in the face

The tiny hole in the shape of an eagle
cut out of the pull tab of a can of Tecate

I take a book from the shelf
Open up to a random page
Read a poem better than anything I will ever written
God damn it

What the hell is an ocean flower anyways

All those possibilities
Everything was supposed
to branch out from there
Instead I stand here
smelling like aquatic blossoms

I wasn’t supposed to write about this

This is not where I expected to wind up
This is not how I expected to smell

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Sonoma County


She cried when she heard about the goats

But everything else was too abstract, too distant

Or else she was

She saw pictures of the stains 

In the corners of the rooms, of the rubble

But they were just pictures

She had actually touched the goats

Or ones like them

Had run her fingers through their coarse hair,

Over the nubs of their horns

Had listened to their bleating

Had felt their lips nibble grain from her palm

It wasn’t like she didn’t care about the other things

She wasn’t a fucking monster

But the goats were what tore her open

And she remained split in half, hollowed out 

By what had happened

By what she had heard had happened

By what she thought she heard had happened

By what she thought she heard might possibly could have happened

Our there by that fence

In that field

On that farm

Or maybe that one 

In Sebastopol

In Petaluma

In Sonoma County



Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Chopping Block Shoals

This is how you want to go out. Grinning on the bow
as the ship plunges into the raging waters.
Rain lashing your face, wind whipping the flags.
The boat found weeks later, floating intact,
not a soul on board. Banners hanging limp.

Instead you end up getting eaten alive
by a wild beast right in your backyard.
Your friends track it down and kill it,
mount its head on the wall
so you can look out through its eyes,
listen through its ears as your friends
gather round to talk about you.
About what a coward you were.
About how you'd never have the guts
to steer your ship out into the gale
to where the ocean sharpens its teeth
against the rocks, never have the courage
to leapwith your sword drawn, screaming
into the hungry sea.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Larch Mt.

Ran across the parking lot
like a fox with tin cans on three of its paws.

After between your doughy thighs, your rippling flesh
had a late supper, flicked peppers across the table
at one another
We hadn't put the screens in the doors yet
and we found ourselves covered
with sweatshirts of mosquitoes

We talked about the various pills we were taking
to help us sleep or to keep us from sleeping
I talked about my friend who's 92
Her son took her to the rhododendron garden
and pushed her around in her wheelchair.
The flowers weren't in bloom yet
but she found a duck egg in the grass
and took it home where he cooked it for her.
She said it had an incredibly rich yolk.

There was a rusted muffler lying in the middle of the road.
There was a snapping turtle sitting in the middle of the road.
A corridor of naked trees beneath an Agnes Martin sky.

It was a cold night and a dozen or so firefighters
were sitting in the back of the ice cream shop.

The perennials are reluctant this year.
Maybe they just need a break. Give them a year off,
let them sleep this one out. They work so hard

"They shot the wrong Beatle" is something my father used to say a lot
I'm not sure why I thought of that just now

Headlights on pine cones. Sign festooned with orange flags
reading BUMP. Young women fly out of the pub
like a flock of swallows bursting from an empty barn.

There was an empty cardboard box in the middle of the road.
There was a single greasy puddle in the middle of the road.
Corridors of leafy trees beneath a mac and cheese sky.

I have nothing to say about these crowded, empty places.
The crud in the creek, the mattress in the culvert.
I've writen int all before. The rusted train tracks
disappearing into the weeds. The labyrinth of briars.
The kingdom of ragweed and skunk cabbage.

Swarming, spreading. A box of cassette tapes molding on the porch.
Names scratched into a picnic table beneath the mimosa tree.
Cheryl, Loretta, Aimee. A drawing of a tooth.
Disco ball hornet nest.

Nature without nostalgia. Without romance.
How lovingly you describe the insects dancing around
a dead chipmunk. I'm so removed from nature. I can't remember
the last time I set foot in anything resembling a forest.

Oh wait, yes I can
It was two years ago
Earlier in the year than this
Just before wildflower season
Larch Mountain

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Black Widow


Take the matchbook out of the pocket
Flip the lid. There’s one match left.

Spring wind and rain. Door bangs. Last blossoms
are torn from the branches. Ruts become puddles
splotched with ripples. The world is a system
of whirlpools and rushing gutters.

And she looked so sad

Muffled pop pop pop
in the distance. Sky lights up
just above the horizon. Rags and blankets.
Frothing dogs strain at their chains.
Shovels chop into the streaming clay.

Steam rises from the sidewalk
where the raindrops hits.
We act so surprised every time
we lose everything.
Steam rises from the sidewalk. 

I offer her a cigarette

Shirts plastered to our skin
Screaming green. Spring wind.
Tulips trampled underfoot. Bluebells
mashed flat. Grind of a nearby motor,
driver asserting his power.

She takes a cigarette from the pack.

There’s one match left in the book.

The wind picks up.